Carrot Panna Cotta with Snow Pea Salad

Serves 4 but can be easily doubled.

Ingredients:

Canola or grapeseed oil
1 3/4cup water
1T agar agar flakes (or 1/2T agar agar powder, which actually works better and is easier to find)
1 lb carrots, cut into large slices, no need to peel
1 stalk celery, cut into large slices
2 rosemary stems
2 bay leaves
1/2t black peppercorns
1 whole star anise
2″ ginger…1 inch grated and set aside, 1 inch cut into chunks and smashed
parsley, a few stalks
salt
2 pinches sugar
1/4c heavy cream
2T fromage blanc (goat cheese or even mascarpone)
paprika
white pepper

snow peas — about 30’ish, cut into thin strips
2T parsley, chopped
fresh tarragon leaves, optional
1T tarragon mustard (or regular mustard if you can’t find tarragon, but really, the tarragon mustard is awesome.  Fallot tarragon dijon mustard is actually cheaper than regular dijon and it’s what Thomas Keller uses at Bouchon.  Seriously.  Go try to find it.)
1/4c olive oil
a few tablespoons champagne vinegar or other mild vinegar, to taste in vinaigrette

Heat oven to 400F, line a baking sheet with foil (or use cooking oil spray).  Lightly spray inside of 4 6-oz ramekins, or equivalent, and set aside.

Combine water, agar agar, 6-10 carrot pieces, celery, herbs, peppercorns, star anise, ginger, parsley, sugar, and 1/4t salt in small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over high heat, scraping bottom of saucepan.  Reduce heat to low and continue scraping bottom of pan occasionally for about 30-45min, until flavors meld.

In the meantime, place carrots on prepared baking sheet, drizzle with oil and toss, sprinkle with salt and white pepper.  Bake 15 min or so, stirring once or twice.  Add ginger, mix again, and continue baking another 10 minutes.  There should be small flecks of caramelization and they should be soft, but they don’t need to be mushy.

Allow carrot/ginger mixture and agar agar mixture to cool about 15 min.  Transfer carrots to blender, and strain agar agar mixture through a fine mesh strainer into blender.  Add cream, cheese, pinch or two of paprika, and additional water to bring the volume just above 2 cups.  Blend until smooth, scraping sides of blender when necessary.  The mixture should have the consistency of heavy cake batter.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, white pepper, and additional paprika…seriously.  You’ll probably need more pepper than you originally think you will, so be sure to blend thoroughly between additions.

Evenly divide mixture between ramekins.  Remove air bubbles by banging (gently) on cutting board or towel-padded countertop.  Set aside for about an hour to fully set.

While setting, mix the oil, vinegar, and mustard into an emulsion…either with a small wire whisk or in a blender.  Mix snowpeas, parsley and tarragon, and add emulsion.  Toss.

To serve — run a thin knife around ramekins and invert onto serving plate.  Create a teepee of snowpea salad atop each panna cotta, add additional tarragon mustard dots to plate if desired, and sprinkle with pepper.  Also, cream-thinned creme fraiche or mascarpone is very good, warmed and drizzled on top.

Panna cottas may be reheated either in their ramekins or on plates for about 5-8min at 350 degrees if your timing is off…

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